I Can't: Camp — Fall Colors Edition

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Manistee National Forest


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Are any of these you?

“I like the idea of camping but get overwhelmed by planning gear, food, logistics...”
"I'd like to go camping. But it kinda scares me."
“I don't have an REI-sized wallet.”
"I'm ready to get out of the city."
"I'd like more nature in my life, to be more 'outdoorsy'."
“I want to explore more but would like others to explore with.”
“I'm IN! for a trip if someone brought the gear, food, ride, and knowledge.”

If you answered yes, I Can’t: Camp — Fall Colors Edition is for you.

I Can’t: Camp — Fall Colors Edition is part of Mac & Cheese Productions' I Can't series, where adults state they're unable to do something, they try it with a bunch of other adults who also "can't," and everyone proves themselves wrong and not only does the thing, but enjoys it and says, "That wasn't so bad. In fact, kinda fun. Good for me! What's next?!" Topics and structure are varied but the "be yourself amongst others being themselves, witness the magic that happens when you try with others trying" vibe is pervasive.

Past I Can'ts have included yoga, improv, find love, draw, have a dog, adult my money, organize my home, ask for money, put on makeup, and buy a home. Upcoming I Can'ts include I Can't: Bake and I Can't: Take a Photo.

For this I Can’t edition, Mac & Cheese is partnering with Aaron Wolf of Adventures Accessed.

“It is clear that Aaron is very passionate about the environment, nature and leaving the smallest footprint possible on the world. What was also evident on the camping trip was Aaron’s passion and heart for people. It was challenging in some ways, fun in all ways and an experience I wouldn’t trade for the world. I also wouldn’t trade Aaron for the world either as he was a wonderful guide who was dedicated enough to challenge us but flexible enough to change things up for the needs of the group.” – previous I Can’t: Camper

Aaron grew up in the Northwest ‘burbs of Chicago. After nearly failing out of high school, he graduated and shipped off to the Marines, serving around the world including an Iraq deployment. Upon his return, the transition back to the “civilian world” had challenges and Aaron dealt with an identity crisis that would last through college and into his corporate career.

Five years later, things began to boil over. Panic attacks at work, a lack of outdoor exposure, and a VA hospital that really likes prescribing pills made life too much. He'd retreat to the forest to decompress, connect, and be himself. Aaron eventually figured out that being immersed outdoors brought him back to a feeling of Self — that he could be Aaron and not Corporal Wolf, and that he was indeed his happiest, most creative, best version of himself when outside. If only he could make a career out of helping others find the same joy and benefits; turns out, he could. Aaron quit his job, wrote a business plan, secured financing, and now leads backcountry experiences as a professional, licensed outfitter/guide via his company Adventures Accessed.

Aaron is beyond proud to provide nature-based programs that —
  • help special needs youth build confidence
  • empower the next generation of great scientists at the Field Museum
  • provide exposure to urban youth, and
  • provide outlets to overworked, drowning in screens adults who need a break

Getaway Details

For three days and two nights, we’ll backpack along the scenic river of Michigan's Manistee National Forest. Take in the fall colors by hiking along the winding banks of the river during the day and share favorite ghost stories at night around the campfire. Expect to hike in 3-5 miles on Friday afternoon and then set up basecamp for the weekend. We'll spend Saturday exploring the banks of the river, checking out the best views and all the hidden sites the forest has to share.

Unlike Life of Yes℠ Sleepaway Camp, where we sleep indoors, have plumbing, and don’t cook our own food, this is really camping-camping. Ya know, dirt, sleeping on the ground, bugs.

Photos of a previous I Can't: Camp here.


What level of camping experience do I need to have?
Absolutely none.

What if I’m nervous to go camping?
You’re not alone! That’s why we’re doing this. Hopefully the fact that you’ll be led by a friendly, experienced guide and accompanied by other friendly, also kinda nervous folks including I Can’t curator Saya lessens some of your nerves.

How will we get there?
In a van.

How far is the drive?
About four hours.

Where do we leave from and return to?
A spot in Lakeview near the Belmont El stop.

Can you tell me more about where we’re going?
Check out the Manistee National Forest website.

Can I come alone?

Can I come with others?
As long as there’s room, absolutely.

Where will I sleep?
In a provided tent or hammock, or under the stars; you choose.

Will I be sharing a tent and if so, with how many?
Typically you share with one other individual. If you’d like to be in a tent with 3-4 people, arrangements can probably be made. Solo sleeping arrangements are available in enclosed hammocks or under the stars.

Where will I go to the bathroom?
No plumbing or outhouses, kids. We’ll learn how to properly, uh, squat.

What’s included in my fee?
Food, equipment, transport from Chicago, facilitation, and forest access.

What do I need to bring?
You’ll get a detailed list on how to dress for outside functionality and comfort but here’s a simplified list:
  • Hygiene gear
  • Flashlight/headlamp
  • Extra batteries
  • Pocket knife
  • Hat
  • Water resistant coat
  • Sunscreen and lip balm
  • Small towel
  • Toilet paper
  • Trash bag
  • Lighter

Can you accommodate my food restrictions?
Probably. Note them when you register and if we foresee any issues, we’ll be in touch.

What level of fitness do I need to have?
You should be comfortable walking two to five miles while carrying a pack, at times over uneven terrain. Some nimbleness may be required for muddy spots, downed trees, or the like.

Is this scary-hiking?
No. Both on trail and off trail, the terrain is gentle to gently rolling. (Saya is deathly afraid of heights and falling off of mountainsides but Aaron has assured her she has nothing to worry about)

What if I can’t swim?
Swimming is optional. A creek crossing or swamp encounter is possible but nothing beyond knee deep.

What if I get hurt?
Adventures Accessed Guides are field tested and trained in Wilderness First Aid and beyond.

What if there’s bad weather?
Rain or shine, we’re a go. Trips have yet to be cancelled due to weather but of course, safety first; if weather is severe, the trip will be cancelled and you’ll get a full refund.

What’s the Refund Policy?
Speaking of refunds, no refunds unless we need to cancel due to weather or other circumstances. If you need to transfer your spot, you can, minus a $50 transfer fee; contact Mac & Cheese Productions℠ for a transfer.

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I Can't Curator

Saya Hillman is an Evanston, Illinois native, Boston College graduate, and Chicago resident. Since 2004, when she was fired, she’s been blissfully self-employed. Her lifestyle business, Mac & Cheese Productions℠, creates and curates experiences that encourage individuals and groups to embrace a Life of Yes℠ — positivity, self-efficacy, playfulness, & community. Mac & Cheese supports individuals in finding fulfillment and groups in creating a positive culture. Think adult summer camp. Saya was one of Brazen Careerist’s Top Twenty Young Professionals to Watch, has been featured in Forbes, SELF, and the New York Times, and is a TEDx speaker. She’s married to someone she met at one of her own events and they pulled off an almost 100% bartered wedding, as featured in the Chicago Tribune and Huffington Post. She's built a life out of embracing fear and suckage, and loves nothing more than getting others to follow suit.

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